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Jerusalem dedicates square to the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousands of Jews during World War II

The city of Jerusalem dedicates a square in the Kiryat Yovel district in memory of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who served as the Japanese vice-consul in Kovno (now Kaunas) in Lithuania.

The recipients were predominantly Jewish refugees and families who had fled Nazi-occupied Poland before Germany invaded Lithuania, which was then independent. With these visas and a complex aid mechanism from other consuls, companies and individuals, up to 10,000 Jews are said to have been saved from the Second World War in Europe and fled to Japan via the Soviet Union. Among the recipients were teachers and the entire student body of Mir Yeshiva, which is now thriving in the Jerusalem district of Beit Yisrael.

Sugihara’s actions were recognized by Israel in 1984, which conferred him the title of Righteous Among the Nations, and posthumously by Japan in 2000.

Chiune’s 72-year-old son, Nobuki Sugihara, who lives in Belgium, spoke at the event after receiving a short-term visa, according to a report in the Times of Israel that Israel refused to allow him to enter for lack of Covid papers.

Nobuki, who was invited to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the late 1960s after the story of his father’s heroism belatedly caught on, said he used to live in the neighborhood near the square and the area had grown up developed beyond recognition: is different, the trees are bigger; the people grew; Survivors made children and grandchildren. “

He said his father “never imagined” that so many beneficiaries of the documents he issued would survive; now, Nobuki estimated, there were several hundred thousand descendants of those who could escape.

Chiune Sugihara, Kaunas, Lithuania, 1940 (USHMM, courtesy Hiroki Sugihara)

When he asked his father why he had acted on behalf of the Jews, Chiune said that he felt sorry for those people who gathered outside the Japanese consulate in Kovno and “had nowhere else to go … no home … heard” saved I do not want; he just did what he could. “

Over 100 people attended the event, which was broadcast on Japanese television channels, including survivors and their descendants.

The Japanese Ambassador to Israel, Koji Tomita, was among the speakers and was proud to have “such a determined senior colleague” as Sugihara.

Jerusalem’s Mayor Moshe Lion addresses the attendees of a ceremony in which Chiune Sugihara Square will be dedicated to the Japanese diplomat of World War II who, as Consul General in Kovno, saved thousands of Jews. Sugihara’s son Nobuki also spoke at the event. (ToI employee)

Mayor Moshe Lion said the event was “the most emotional” such inauguration ceremony he has attended since taking office, as a large number of descendants were brought to life thanks to Sugihara’s actions.

“We love you,” Lion said, turning to Nobuki and other members of the Sugihara family. “We will always appreciate what you’ve done – and by ‘we’ I mean the people of Jerusalem and the people of Israel.”


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